Friday, August 17, 2012

NIB: Trip Log - Tainan and another wedding banquet

This is another post from my Taiwan Leg of my trip this time at a preview of a wedding banquet. It's where a restaurant is presenting it's dishes and the bride and groom are trying all the dishes (usually gratis) depending on how big your wedding party is. Keep in mind a standard wedding party in Taiwan is something on the order of 60 tables of 10 to 12 people each. Food is a central theme in an Asian wedding so the banquet really takes the place of the giant wedding ceremony. There are smaller private tea ceremony for the immediate family and every city has it's own traditions but the big deal is the banquet itself. I'll keep this post short since it's a ton of dishes and you really don't want me yammering on and on about stuff. Edit: Ok I lied, I did a lot of yammering on this one. Just a note I did both this and last post completely on an iPad, camera connector and iPad photo cleanup apps.

Is mochi sweet or savory? Is it meant only for desert? Apparently not. This starter dish is called "Tang Yuan" which is a type of mochi made with tapioca starch, this particular rendition is got a bread crumb with raisins. It's got a cool chewy texture.

A common appetizer is a cold platter. These small dishes are often served alone as an appetizer to be consumed with alcohol (never an empty stomach) but are also served as part of an appetizer course. I'm afraid I cannot identify everything since I couldn't get a translation for the bottom left dish (the kidney shaped things) but apparently they come from the internals of a Black Mullet Fish. Above that is a fresh fish roe with japanese mayo and sweet black beans. To the right is a spring roll and grilled squid. And finally a very expensive delicacy of cured Black Mullet Roe. The Mullet roe is my favorite thing in the world, actually the italians have the same item (they use it as an ingredient in a pasta) it's called Bottarga di Mugine. Both are prepared the same way of a salt cure and sun dried. In the dish as pictured the whole roe sack is then steamed and sliced thin. For the Italians they grate it over pasta. My favorite preparation is first steaming then pan frying the roe before slicing it. The pan fry really brings out the aroma of the roe as well as causes the little eggs to form hard little spheres that burst into spheres of amazing flavor.

Preview banquets are just that, they are tastings that the wedding party may or may not turn down. There's no way for me to know what will or won't make the cut. Typically the happy couple don't have a selection choice in the process, it's usually the family(s) involved (typically the party that pays) that makes the final choice. Yes this dish is controversial but it's a delicacy and considered a "high honor" dish to present to guests. The soup is a chicken soup with Chinese medicinal herbs with Shark fin. I'm sure i'll get some flames on this one but again food is food and I'm just here to document what I see (and eat). The soup does have a distinct Chinese "medicinal" earthy herbal quality the only ingredients I could identify for sure were ginger, ginsing, and dried goji berries.

For some reason seafood is very prominent in wedding banquets this is a Stir fried shrimp wrapped in lettuce. The shrimp is marinated in cornstarch and water and stir fried with water chestnuts. Although very plentiful and available seafood is still considered "expensive and rich" food that you must offer your guests to show you are generous. Personally I'd like some more variety maybe even some more vegetable dishes.

My girlfriend was unable to translate or tell me what type of fish we have here. It's a white fish that's been blanched and then treated with a brown sauce. The texture was very flaky and light. The red and white slices were ham and fish cake.

Wedding food as I said revolves around a lot of seafood this is a baked lobster, Asian people aren't afraid of shells or fishbone so you often see people picking things apart without the help of utensils. The thing I found interesting with this dish is along the side what looks like noodle bundles is actually Konnyaku noodles, the miraculous japanese food of zero calories. I wonder how that came into Chinese cuisine? Probably because Taiwan has often been referred to as "little Japan" due to their adoption of a lot of Japanese fashion/TV/culture.


Banquet food.... Un-ending procession... going to explode. So even with this sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves they managed to sprinkle on some dried shrimp and serve crab to insure there's seafood. Not much to say here.

On the right we have shitake mushrooms, on the left steamed broccoli in the middle on top of braised iceberg looking lettuce is what is called nine hole abalone. Nine hole abalone is a cousin to "abalone" proper. Abalone is much larger and has been over fished to the point where it's super expensive and near extinction. There's a bunch of info on abalone so I need to do a bit more research before I can report more on the difference between nine hole and abalone, nine hole may just be a younger abalone. Rest assured it's yet another seafood/shellfish that's considered a delicacy.

October seems to be a better time to serve two soups in a banquet, it's hot enough in Taiwan. I was curious as to what they were thinking with a second soup. This one has a similar herb/medicinal base as the one before but this time it's served with fish. I'm not sure what fish but it had a high fat content between the skin and the meat.

Six fruit dessert course. Not much to say here, it's traditional to serve fruit near the end of the meal.

Very near the end here. Just as I think we're in the dessert clear they throw a curve ball. The surrounding pastries are a blueberry pastry/pie and the center is a steamed meatball in sticky rice. It's kind of a weird mix of savory and sweet. I stuck with the meatballs and had a taste of the blueberry treat (too sweet for me).

Excited! we're done! Final course is a traditional dessert soup with white woodear mushrooms, lotus seeds, cherries and dates. It's to wish the new couple "fertile success" meaning you better have some grand kids for us soon after we pay for this banquet. It's a sweet soup served cold and I know it's unusual to have mushrooms in dessert but if you think of it as a crunchy gelatin and not what you normally consider as mushroom you'll be good.

Well that's it for this post. I might squeek another out but this final leg of my trip to Dallas hasn't presented any cool food to snap pics of. So this might be the last post for this trip. There's an easter egg in this post! Comment if you figure it out.

 

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